Asked if she went into the woods to listen for the Suscon Screamer, Anne Barnes laughed and said, “Are you kidding? We were afraid to get out of the car.”
It was in the late 1970s when Barnes — she was high schooler Anne Piechota then — and her girlfriends went up by the Black Bridge on Suscon Road to listen for the Screamer. According to legend, high-pitched, frightening screams — described as neither animal nor human or a hybrid of both — could be heard if you stop at the old bridge site, blink your lights and honk your horn five times. Visiting the site, as Barnes and her friends did, and looking and listening for the Screamer was a rite of passage for generations of teenagers in the Greater Pittston area.
“We stopped, rolled down the windows and blinked the lights,” she said. “We heard screaming and were totally freaked.”
With the demolition of the Black Bridge in the 1980s, interest in the Screamer legend my have waned, but Stanley Zurek, a lifelong Suscon resident who wrote two books on the Suscon Screamer, said groups of teenagers and young adults still visit the site where the Black Bridge crossed over Suscon Road.
“At book signings or when I do a discussion at the library, teenagers and young people come up to me and talk about how they went to the Black Bridge area and heard something. Some even say they saw a vision in white.”
Zurek said to most of the young people he talks to, the Screamer is a girl in a white dress, variously as the legends go, a jilted bride who hung herself or a girl murdered or killed in a car wreck on prom night.
But, Zurek said in the earliest Suscon Screamer stories he’s aware of, the Screamer is an animal. He heard the stories told by Suscon old timers. “Earl Renfer and Clarence Hatmaker were two old timers with good oral histories. I used to sit on the porch with them when I was 8 years old.”
One story has it a fire watchman heard a terrible scream during a fire in the woods in the early 1900s. “It was getting louder, coming at him. It was a strange animal looking like a giant pig on two legs and screaming. It could have been a burned bear.”
Another story Zurek picked up said the legend’s beginnings might even go back to Native American lore.
“Way, way back when Native Americans were still in the area, a flying head would swoop into their villages. One night a woman sat in front of a fire and sensed something behind her. She pretended to eat hot coals from the fire. Seeing her, the thing put hot coals in its mouth and went screaming into the woods.”
Zurek said he rarely hears of “girl-in-white” sightings anymore, but “bigfoot” type sighting persist.
Joe Hawk was a Pittston Twp. police officer in the 1980s when he responded to a 911 call from a hunter who saw something in the woods.
“He was a kid. It was his 18th birthday and he was headed to the fire station. Something on two legs with brown fur crossed the road in front of his truck,” Hawk recalled. “He sounded credible. He wasn’t drunk or anything. He said he’d been hunting since he was 12 and what he saw was not a bear. It was not like anything he’d seen before. He wasn’t lying. He saw something.”
In 1997, Shawn Viadock from Dupont was hunting in Suscon when he encountered something in the woods.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” he said. “I was heading to my post, not too far from Devil’s Falls. It was a 40-minute walk from where I parked my truck. The closer I got to my post it was getting more and more quiet. I didn’t hear any squirrels running. I didn’t even hear even a bird. I had to go down a wash. At the end I saw a patch was ripped up. A 6-foot tree was twisted and pushed over. I went up (a) knoll and sat in a cut out on a small cliff. I could look down the hill. It would be hard to see up from below. It was still and quiet. After a half hour, I heard a commotion across the creek near a hunting club. I could see something coming toward me. It was not a bear. It was a grey, muscular creature with a large head and a flat snout. I heard a gunshot. That startled it. He lifted his foot to run and I saw large claws. He ran hunched. Like a crouch. Not a bear. Like something out of a book. I gathered my gear and hightailed back to my truck in record time.”
Zurek said sightings like these continue.
“Surprisingly, in the last four to five years, we got a lot of calls on big, hairy creatures roaming the 18-mile stretch from Suscon to Thornhurst.”
As to his own experiences, Zurek said he’s heard the screaming. “I couldn’t tell what it was. It sounded like a woman being attacked.”
Zurek’s first book was “Suscon Screams” and the second is “Suscon Screamer Louder.” Both chronicle a list of strange happenings in Suscon and many deaths from accidents, suicides and murders. Some can be verified through newspaper accounts.
For example, Zurek writes about a family drowning in a small lake on Easter Sunday. He’s right about it being a holiday, but it was Labor Day in 1955. Three sisters 3, 5 and 8, drowned when a boat capsized. There are also newspaper stories about a suicide, murder of a foreman on a WPA project in the 1930s and several accidents, including one where a man was killed on his way to visit his grandmother.
Zurek said with so many deaths in the area there are many crosses scattered about in the Suscon woods. And, as some believe, spirits and hairy beasts are roaming about, as well.
Robin Dommermuth, 69, said his late brother, Kevin, who lived on the top of Mile Hill in the last house on Suscon Road, heard the screams for years during Halloween season.
Robin said his brother had a different theory on the origin of the screams — “Kids with loudspeakers or a megaphone,” he said.